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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Retailers report mixed holiday sales

Associated Press

J.C. Penney Co. said yesterday that sales at stores open at least a year will surpass expectations for December, but the post-holiday news from two other leading retailers was more grim.

Federated Department Stores, the parent company of Macy's and Bloomingdale's, says November and December same-store sales will be down 4.5 percent, and Wal-Mart said that sales picked up late in the month but will miss projections.

Same-store sales are considered to be the best indicator of a retailer's strength.

Penney, based in Plano, Texas, said in its weekly sales update that business at its department stores was better than expected in the final days before Christmas with especially strong sales in fine jewelry, children's, home, men's and women's accessories.

Catalog sales, however, were expected to fall 20 percent for the month, the company said.

Penney had expected its Eckerd drugstores to post a sales increase of 6 percent, but yesterday, the company said December sales were below expectations. It did not provide new figures.

Cincinnati-based Federated said it expects same-store sales to be down 2.5 percent for December and 4.5 percent for November and December combined. The final week of the five-week December sales period ends Saturday. Federated previously said it expected same-store sales to be flat to down 2.5 percent for November and December.

Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, said sales were strong Christmas week — before and after the holiday — but that it still expects only a modest gain in sales.

Wal-Mart had earlier pulled back from its projection of a sales increase of 3 percent to 5 percent for the holiday season over 2001 in stores open at least a year. Yesterday, the company stuck to its revised prediction that same-store sales would gain 2 percent to 3 percent.

The company noted that its Sam's Club warehouse store division will likely post same-store sales lower than that of a year ago. Wal-Mart tracks its five-week holiday period from Nov. 30 through Jan. 3.

For the week ending Friday, Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart said sales were strongest in home furnishings, electronics, toys, health and beauty and seasonal items.

Despite the mixed news on top of reports last week that this was the worst holiday season in 30 years for retailers, shares of all three retailers climbed yesterday. Penney shares gained 82 cents to close yesterday at $22.89 on the New York Stock Exchange, where shares of Wal-Mart jumped $1.48 to $50.64 and Federated shares rose 56 cents to $28.08.